Production of food in Western Africa
The region of Western Africa has the means to produce a bounty of food. Though it is sparsely populated, the northern region borders the Sahara Desert; the semi-arid Sahel region is irrigated by some of Africa’s largest rivers; the Niger River and the Senegal River. Further to the South, the climate becomes wetter, receiving rainfall similar to the American Midwest; Mali has the biggest area of arable land of the entire region of West Africa. This makes Mali an ideal starting point for Agile International which will expand to the rest of Western Africa’s fertile lands. These lands constitute some of the region’s greatest assets.
Given that it is the local small farmers in African countries that produce the continent’s vast majority of food to feed their populations, not the commodity-driven foreign companies, Agile International works to buy lands that can be worked by local farmers who are mainly women. These women will work closely with the un-employed young graduates, the displaced youth, and the school drop outs to produce food for their families. Excess food production will be sold to pay for their children’s education and to be reinvested in their business.
This cultural approach and locally based food production using sustainable methods is certain to resolve food crisis in the entire region while creating opportunities, lasting economic development solutions and a better future for the children of West Africa.
Research has shown a direct correlation between dropout rates and the disintegration of the family structure which once was the foundation of African communities. In neighborhoods where drop out is more prevalent, poverty and disease is also higher. Agile International will work to give these young people the opportunity they need and deserve: a chance to get educated as well as hope for the future.
IMPROVING SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION
Traditional African agriculture has been sustainable by necessity. Over thousands of years, farmers learned to live with the land and developed practices that ensured their food supply for the future.
However the “Green Revolution” that promised to end hunger through better technology and higher crop yields has had negative effects on small famers. The introduction of expensive and imported hybrid seed varieties put small producers into debt. High-Yield farming can be sustainable and does not require the use of costly fertilizers and pesticides as farmers are led to believe. These costly fertilizers and pesticides put additional costs onto farmers, as well as exposing them to harmful poisons. The concept of industrialized farming has resulted in increased desertification because of excessive soil tilling and the concentration of greater and greater chunks of land being owned by fewer and fewer people who must farm the land more intensively to survive. Instead of ending hunger, it resulted in loss of land, loss of jobs, and more expensive food.
Agile International wants to keep West Africa’s farmers productive, out of debt, and use the latest sustainable practices to keep food affordable and abundant. Using native seed varieties that have adapted to Africa’s environment will keep farmers from using risky and costly genetically-modified seed.
Colorado State University, a world-renown agricultural school, has committed to sending its graduate students to team up with skilled farmers in Mali to help improve current local agricultural techniques and return to less destructive farming methods. These graduate students will focus on crop yield and sustainability through a blend of modern and native agricultural practices that include crop rotation, the use of native and imported seeds, irrigation, and related issues.
The expertise from CSU will help the region’s farmers return to proven decades of scientific and farmer knowledge of high-yield sustainable practices and enhance these techniques that have been lost when farmers were trained to use practices requiring the use of chemical fertilizers from the developed countries. CSU and Agile International will work together to develop climate mitigation techniques and strategies; we’ll also develop a productive innovative and indefinitely sustainable local agro-system in the region.
Education and Stay-In-School Awareness
The value of education is known to every culture on the planet. In Mali for instance, every child can get free education through the ninth grade. Even with free schooling, some families cannot afford the school supplies for their children to participate in lessons. Private secondary and vocational schooling may charge $600 a year, in a nation where the average yearly salary is around $500. Given this financial stress, much needed training for well paying jobs becomes out of reach for much of the population.
About 61% of children in Mali enroll in primary school but only 36% will complete their ninth year of public education. These numbers are much lower among girls. The majority of students reportedly leave school by age 12. The secondary school enrollment rate hovers around 15 percent, with only a small portion of those students being young women.
Agile International works to provide families with the necessary funds for their kids to attend school by providing them with the land they can use to produce food, along with training to produce food sustainably and without reliance on expensive commercial fertilizers.
Supporting education and letting West African children go as far as their capabilities can take them is a key part of supporting real social progress in sub-Saharan Africa.
Providing Regional Displacement Relief
There have been a number of on-going regional conflicts in West Africa which have caused tens of thousands of families to leave their homes behind in search of some degree of safety from the violence. The causes of the turmoil may be varied, ranging from religious and cultural differences to economic pressure and famine, but the side effects are almost always universal: pain and suffering.
This kind of social upheaval can have devastating and long term effects on the fabric of a society. Families are torn apart, local economies break down, and once prosperous communities may become irreparably stagnant. We can help to mitigate these problems by providing a safety net for those people who are fleeing from conflict and oppression, and ensure that regional problems aren’t further magnified by large migrations of refugees.
If it seems to you that there are some significant challenges being faced, then you are correct. And if we don’t act soon to turn things around, we can only expect conditions to worsen. History has shown that an economic climate like this can eventually become an inexorable downward spiral.
“Nothing will work unless you do.” ~ Maya Angelou.